East Bethel approves SCBA for fire department

As news surfaced about a possible increase in the rate of cancer among firefighters, the East Bethel City Council approved a request from its fire department for new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA, equipment.

The 5-0 vote on Feb. 15 will allot $245,574 for the purchase of the equipment from Emergency Response Solutions of East Bethel. The new equipment will be paid for by the East Bethel Fire Department Equipment Fund.

The department’s current equipment will not meet new standards set to take place by 2018, and recommendations from the NFPA suggest not to recycle or repair used gear.

With that in mind, District Chief Mark Prachar and Deputy Chief Arden Andersen led a review of three manufacturers’ products, which were tested by East Bethel firefighters. The department then recommended Emergency Response Solutions for the purchase.

The purchase will include 35 harness units, 70 air canisters, 70 quick release connectors and 41 face masks. In addition, the package will include a firefighter tracking system with a telemetry feature that will improve efficiency on the scene of an emergency and allow the on-site commander to know where each firefighter is at any given time.

Fire Chief Mark DuCharme was appreciative of the approval.

“This was truly needed, and I can’t tell you how valuable the telemetry feature is to us. This is a very important part of our service needs,” he said.

Originally scheduled to be replaced in 2018, the breathing apparatus national standards are changing at the end of 2017 and manufacturers are expecting up to a 20 percent increase in pricing. The new gear will come with a 15-year warranty as well as a vendor-supported training program. It’s expected that the new equipment will keep East Bethel compliant for the next 10 to 12 years. The new gear is expected to be in place by July of this year.